When it comes to healing from any kind of abuse, or mistreatment, The Toolbox recognizes the importance of identifying unhelpful thoughts and behaviors, and then replacing them with healthy ones. The writing here also stresses empowerment: by setting personal boundaries, finding our authentic selves, speaking our truths, nurturing our inner children, and by affirming and validating ourselves. Here, the connection is made clear between gaslighting, codependency, trauma bonds, C-PTSD, attachment styles, and our future health, well-being, and relationships.
Identifying those individuals who would interrupt, reverse, or stall our healing process is a necessary part of that ongoing recovery journey.
Identifying toxic people is an essential step in healing from any kind of abuse or mistreatment
As you begin recovering from the effects of gaslighting, codependency, cognitive dissonance, trauma bonding, betrayal, or C-PTSD, your self-care organically becomes more important. As part of your everyday self-care, it’s crucial to know how to recognize toxic or dangerous individuals (and limit your exposure to them by using boundaries.) This is an ongoing way to take care of and protect yourself from further trauma or victimization.
The WEB Method is a “quick and easy way to identify potentially dangerous people.” WEB stands for words, emotions, and behavior. The method was developed by a licensed social worker, Bill Eddy. According to Eddy, there are three things to examine to find out if there’s a chance someone may be unsafe:
The WEB method requires you to pay attention to:
- the WORDS the individual uses
- YOUR emotions (How do you feel when around this person: On high alert? Unsafe? Unsure? Hesitant? Confused? Embarrassed? Afraid? Etc.)
- THEIR behavior (How do they act: Arrogant? Blaming? Shaming? Critical? Cruel? Lacking empathy? Unstable? Risk-taking? Etc.) (Eddy 2018).
“Paying attention to their words” means:
- Noticing if they use either extremely positive or extremely negative words to describe you or others. This indicates black and white thinking, a trait of narcissists, and those who have personality disorders, including psychopaths.
- Looking for words that indicate a lack of emotional empathy or lack of interest or disregard for others. Again, narcissistic traits, as well as those with borderline personality disorder, sociopaths, and psychopaths.
- Spotting words that indicate that they see themselves as a victim or that they think they’ve been duped, targeted, or wounded. These are traits of narcissists as well as individuals who blame, make excuses, shirk responsibility, harbor resentment, and use negative self-talk.
You’ve made a lot of progress and come too far to let yourself get involved with a shaming, blaming, “poor me.”
Notice if they virtue signal. Virtue signaling is the not-so-humble declaration of one’s morals and values. “I’m generous,” “I’m extremely open-minded,” “I’m a good person.” These could be examples of words not matching actions. When someone wants others to believe what they say about themselves, it’s a type of gaslighting. Most of us don’t need to talk about or convince others of our good qualities. When a person possesses admirable character and integrity, they don’t need to announce or advertise it. They simply live it, and people notice.
“Paying attention to your emotions” means checking in with your feelings:
- How do you feel when you’re around this person? Confused? Emotionally Drained? Hurt? Defeated? Exhausted? Misunderstood? Stupid? Inadequate? Bullied? Sick? Mocked? Belittled? Humiliated? Why do you think you feel this way? What is your body trying to tell you?
- Do they seem too good to be true? “Charm” is considered to be a warning sign. People who intensely or endlessly flatter, praise, or compliment are often manipulative. Pouring on the charm may indicate that they’re a deceptive or controlling person. Keep monitoring.
- Do you feel like you can’t catch your breath or you can’t think straight when you’re around them? Psychopaths, sociopaths, borderlines, and narcissists can overwhelm others with their posturing and self-directed focus. They dominate conversations, don’t allow differences of opinion, and keep the focus on themselves. Conversations often feel like debates, and it’s usually hard to change the subject, or disengage, because they simply won’t’ allow it. When you’re in a discussion with a narcissist, you’ll feel unheard, misunderstood, or dismissed, and you’ll likely be mocked, or ridiculed if you challenge or disagree with them.
“Paying attention to their behavior” means you need to:
- Focus on their actions. Dangerous, toxic, and mentally ill people including narcissists are often defensive and will verbally or even physically attack those who criticize or appear to challenge them. Notice how they treat others. Do they humiliate or shame others? Do they embarrass you or cause you to want to apologize for their behavior?
- Notice their dismissal, disregard, or indifference of yourself or others. Do they interrupt you? Talk over you? Scorn, laugh at, or minimize your point of view? Is the message that what they say or do is more important than anybody else? These indicate an ego-centered worldview. Not good.
- Notice if they blame others for their own mistakes or poor choices. Narcissists and “poor-me’s” are famous for being big blamers. They shirk responsibility and don’t learn from their mistakes. Nothing is ever their fault. They don’t make mistakes!
- Notice if they encourage others to admire them. Do they seek attention, compliments, praise, or admiration? These are all forms of narcissistic supply, indicating that you may have a narcissist on your hands.
Healing from abuse, betrayal or mistreatment is a complex, energy-consuming, and often painful undertaking. It requires commitment, patience, and time. It means doing the hard work and taking excellent self-care. Protecting ourselves from those who would hurt, take advantage, manipulate, or interrupt, (reverse, or stall) our progress, is part of that process.
All the best-
Start using positive detachment
Learn to set boundaries
Learn about dysfunctional family roles
Find out what trauma does to your brain
Learn about codependency and other maladaptive coping skills
Understand the Narcissistic Abuse Cycle
Learn about Narcissism Awareness Grief
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About the Author
As a result of growing up in a dysfunctional home, and with the help of professional therapists and continued personal growth, author Diane Metcalf developed strong coping skills and healing strategies. She happily shares those with others who want to learn and grow.
Diane is an experienced advocate, speaker, and writer on family dysfunction, and narcissism. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and a Master of Science in Information Technology. She has worked in numerous human service fields, including domestic violence and partner abuse.
She has authored four transformational books about healing and moving forward, including the highly praised “Lemon Moms” series. This emotionally supportive collection explains maternal narcissistic traits and teaches how to reconcile past hurts to begin self-nurturing, healing and moving forward.
The Lemon Moms series, as well as her other books and articles, are an aggregation of education, insight, and personal growth resulting from childhood experiences and her subsequent recovery work.
She writes about strategies for recovering and moving on from hurtful people and painful, dysfunctional, or toxic relationships on The Toolbox blog.
See what’s happening on her author’s site: DianeMetcalf.com
Learn about the Lemon Moms series: Lemon Moms
This website is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional therapy.